Full Rush Transcript: Sen. Ted Cruz, CNN Milwaukee Republican Presidential Town Hall
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED
ANDERSON COOPER: Welcome to all of you who are joining us. We’re here with the three remaining Republican candidates. In the audience tonight Republican and some independents, all of whom say they are voting in next week’s Republican primary. Some have already made their decisions on a candidate, others still undecided.
They came up with the questions you’ll hear tonight. We reviewed them to make sure the questions don’t overlap. I’m going to ask a few questions as well, but tonight this town hall is a chance for voters to hear at length from the candidates.
So, let’s get right to it. Joining us right now, the U.S. Senator from Texas. Please welcome Ted Cruz.
CRUZ: Thank you, good to be with you.
COOPER: Congratulations on a big endorsement from the governor of the state, Scott Walker. Obviously a great thing for your campaign. We’re going to hear a lot of questions tonight from the voters on the issues.
I want to just start by talking to you about a couple of issues of the day. As you know, you talked a little bit today, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski (ph), charged today with Simple Battery. If he was your campaign manager, would you ask him to resign?
CRUZ: Of course. Look, it shouldn’t be complicated that members of the campaign staff should not be physically assaulting the press. I mean, that shouldn’t be a complicated decision.
COOPER: He says he’s innocent of all the charges.
COOPER: … Do you believe it was assault?
CRUZ: He has just been charged. I know that the reporter alleged that she was physically assaulted. That I will say, it’s consistent with the pattern of the Trump campaign.
COOPER: Do you think it says something about the campaign itself? About the leadership?
CRUZ: The culture of the campaign has been a campaign built on attacks, on insults, and I think there is no place in politics for insults, for personal attacks, for going to the gutter, and there should be no place for physical violence either.
COOPER: I want to ask you about the path ahead for you. you need 85 percent of the remaining delegates to secure the nomination. Not impossible, but highly improbable. Will you admit tonight that a contested convention is your best bet to get the nomination?
CRUZ: Not remotely because…
COOPER: Do you think you can get 85 percent?
CRUZ: Absolutely, and our path going forward is to get 1,237. Most of the races coming up are either winner-take-all, or winner-take-most.
COOPER: But, you’ve only gotten 30 percent of the delegates so far. We’re half over.
COOPER: … How do you go from 30 percent to 85 percent?
CRUZ: I’ll tell you, the way you do that — it’s the situation. If two guys are hiking in the woods, and a bear start chasing, and you know the old joke that the fellow sits down and starts to put on his running shoes? And the guy turns to his friend and says, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun the bear.”
And, the guy says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.”
That principal is the same thing going forward, if we continue to beat Donald Trump — you know, we just had a few days ago in Utah a massive victory against Donald Trump and we got all of the delegates in Utah. If we continue to beat Donald Trump going forward most of the states are winner-take-all or winner-take-most, and we get North of 80 percent of the delegates simply by beating Donald Trump going forward.
COOPER: But Donald Trump is still way out in front of you. He won Louisiana. You got more delegates out of Louisiana, which he is obviously upset about, but I mean, 85 percent in the remaining races, that’s more than you’ve ever gotten anywhere.
CRUZ: Look, but you don’t have to win 85 percent, Anderson. The way it works, you have to win the races going forward but when you win, you get most or all the delegates.
And here’s the dynamic that has played out. A year ago there were 17 candidates. It was a fantastic, diverse, dynamic field. The field has narrowed now. And what Donald benefits from is division because Donald has had pretty consistently a floor of about 20 to 25 percent.
But he has got a hard ceiling of about 35 to 40 percent that he has a real hard time breaking. And so when there are two or three or four other candidates and they divide the vote, he can win state after state with 30, 35 percent, even 40 percent.
Head to head, Donald has an incredibly difficult time breaking 50 percent.
COOPER: The Kasich campaign has made an effort to reach out to your campaign to strike some sort of a pact in order to defeat Donald Trump. Wouldn’t that make sense? Apparently all the reports are so far you’ve not responded.
CRUZ: Well, it makes no sense at all. John Kasich has no path to win it. We are competing to win. We’re not competing to stop Trump. We’re competing to win the nomination. John Kasich went 0 for 27. He lost 27 states in a row.
COOPER: He admits though it’s going to go to a contested convention, that’s where he says he can win.
CRUZ: Look, I understand, except that it’s against the rules for John Kasich to be on the ballot. The rules provide that in order to be even on the ballot, if no one has 1,237, you have to have won at least 8 states.
Now, there are only two candidates who are going to meet that threshold, Donald Trump and me. And so our preferred option is win 1,237 delegates before the convention. We are working hard to do that. And I’ll mention Wisconsin is going to be critical in that.
But the second option, which is entirely possible, we could get to a convention where nobody has 1,237 delegates, and we come in with a ton of delegates, Donald Trump comes in with a ton of delegates.
And if that happens, then it becomes a battle for the delegates, but the only two names on the ballot are going to be Donald Trump and me. On the rules, those are the only two people that can be voted on.
And I think in that situation, we’re in a very strong position to earn the 1,237 votes from the delegates who are elected by the people.
COOPER: I want to talk about some policy here. In the wake of the horrible attacks that we saw in Brussels, you proposed securing our borders, crushing ISIS, stopping refugees.
But you also suggested that law enforcement “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” John Kasich said about that proposal: “So what we want to do is start policing Muslim neighborhoods, create more divisions, start policing neighborhoods in here La Crosse? This is politics trying to appeal to people’s base instincts and fears.”
Is that what you’re doing?
CRUZ: Look, what I believe we should do is we need a commander-in-chief who is actually focused on keeping this country safe. You know, we saw…
COOPER: What does it mean, though, “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods”? How do you decide what neighborhoods — what’s a Muslim neighborhood?
CRUZ: Let me answer your question. We had a terror attack in Brussels last week. It was a horrific attack. President Obama could barely be bothered to stop his baseball game with communist dictators to say anything about it.
CRUZ: And when he did, he followed this bizarre pattern that he has followed for year after year after year where he refuses to say the words “radical Islamic” terrorism.
Instead what he does, what he did after the Paris terror attack, what he did after San Bernardino, is he goes on television and he lectures Americans about Islamophobia.
Enough is enough. How about a president that actually stands up and defends this country? We need a commander-in-chief…
COOPER: So what does that mean, patrol Muslim neighborhoods?
CRUZ: What it means is that we target the enemy. Now, there is a difference between Islam and Islamism. Islamism is a political and theocratic philosophy that commands its adherents to wage violent jihad, to murder or to forcibly convert all infidels.
And by infidels, they mean every one of the rest of us. Islamism is our enemy. And when President Obama and Hillary Clinton and the modern Democratic Party play this politically correct game of denying it, it means they don’t fight it effectively.
So, for example, let’s talk about the consequences of it. Obama and Hillary both advocate bringing tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America.
COOPER: Right, so you want to stop that, but you did talk about patrolling Muslim neighborhoods.
CRUZ: Sure, absolutely.
COOPER: And a lot of folks — you kept saying that worked in New York, but political correctness made the police stop that.
COOPER: New York Police have pushed back on that. Chief Bratton said that’s just complete bunk. And I want to read you what, in fact — I mean, the guy who ran that program that you say was such a big success says it didn’t lead to any prosecutions, there were no leads from it.
CRUZ: Listen, you are right that after I called for increased vigilance protecting us that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio all attacked me. I wear that as a badge of pride. I will not apologize to anyone…
COOPER: … Bill Bratton, worked for Rudy Giuliani…
CRUZ: I understand that the Commissioner who works for Bill de Blasio has a political imperative. de Blasio is a left-wing radical.
COOPER: The commander who oversaw the very program that you claim was as success in New York testified under oath that it didn’t lead to any investigations in the six years.
CRUZ: Anderson, in New York, this was a successful program….
COOPER: … In what way?
CRUZ: It was set up under Mayor Michael Bloomberg to monitor and to work cooperatively with the Muslim community to prevent radicalization, and to stop radical Islamic terrorism plots before it occurs…
COOPER: … Can you name one case…
CRUZ: There are a number of cases. It identified a bookstore that was a locus for radicalization and allowed law enforcement to after that bookstore, and what happened was when Mayor Bill de Blasio got elected he gave in to political correctness and shut the unit down.
Listen, if you want to stop radical Islamic terrorism, the answer isn’t to go hang out in random neighborhoods. It is instead to focus on communities where radicalization is a risk. And, I’ll tell you what Europe has done.
Europe has followed the path that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to put us on. That the tragedies, these terror attacks in Europe are a result of failed immigration policies where they’ve allowed vast numbers of Islamic terrorists to come into Europe, and they’re in communities that are isolated. They’re called “No-Go” communities where the law enforcement doesn’t engage in those communities.
One in Brussels, Molenbeek, has been a particular incubator for radical Islamic terrorism. Many of these terrorist plots trace back to Molenbeek.
My plan is very simple, America should not make the mistakes of Europe. We should not disengage. We should have law enforcement actively engage to stop radicalization before it stops — and, I recognize that the media and the Democrats hate it when someone actually describes who the enemy is.
I’ll tell ya’, as President, every single day I will wake up fighting radical Islamic terrorism and working to defeat it.
COOPER: Turning back to the campaign.
It’s obviously been a very rough and tumble week between you and Donald Trump. A salacious story about you was published in “National Enquirer”. You say Donald Trump, the people around him, were responsible for planting that story. Do you have any proof of that?
CRUZ: Sure. There’s the story, on its face, quoted on the record, Roger Stone.
COOPER: Former advisor to…
CRUZ: … Roger Stone has been Donald Trump’s Chief Political adviser. He planned and ran his presidential campaign, and he’s been his hatchet man. He spent 40 years as a hatchet man. But, not only that, the head of the “National Enquirer”, a guy named David Pecker, is good friends with Donald Trump.
COOPER: But you don’t know it for a fact that Donald Trump planted that story?
CRUZ: Of course I do. When his good friend — you know, the “National Enquirer”, in its history, has never endorsed a presidential candidate until Donald Trump?
And, now, David Pecker — look, Donald Trump suggested David Pecker, the head of the “National Enquirer”, should take over “Time” Magazine. Who in their right mind should suggest the head of the “National Enquirer” should take over “Time” magazine?
COOPER: You’ve been very tough recently, but early on the campaign it seemed like you made a political calculation not to go after him. Just last week on a radio program, you said that essentially those candidates who did go after him early on were road kill, you needed to build your base.
Back in December you tweeted, “The establishment’s only hope, Trump and me in a cage match, sorry to disappoint, Donald Trump is terrific.”
That was after he’d already made fun of Carly Fiorina’s face, after he’d gone after Megyn Kelly. At that point in December, did you really believe Donald Trump was terrific?
CRUZ: Look, what I knew was that the media was engaged in a love fest. Giving Donald Trump $2 billion dollars in premium (ph)…
COOPER: … Sounds like you were engaged in a love fest.
CRUZ: Let’s be clear, how many hours of free media do CNN, and FOX, and every other station — you let him call in, and for a year — $2 billion dollars of free media…
COOPER: … Well, I got to say, we’ve asked you for interviews pretty much every day, and you’ve declined every offer on my program…
CRUZ: … Well, Anderson….
COOPER: … So, you can come on any time…
CRUZ: … I want to point out I’ve been inviting Donald Trump for several days to come and make this a debate. He’s coming later, and he’s terrified to make it a debate because he doesn’t want to actually stand and have his record challenged.
COOPER: But, when you called him terrific back in December, did you really believe that, or was that political calculation?
CRUZ: Let me make a point. There has been a distinction that I have followed throughout, which is that I keep the focus on issues and substance, so I’m happy to draw distinction with Donald Trump on the issues, whether it is economic policy — that he doesn’t have a policy to bring jobs back to America, whether it is national security where is advocating for a far too weak foreign policy that leaves us vulnerable.
What I’m not interested in doing is what Donald’s pattern has been, which is the personal attacks. It’s going to the gutter, it’s attacking family members.
None of that has any place in politics. We ought to be discussing tax policy, we ought to be discussing national security. We ought to be discussing substance…
COOPER: … Let’s do that now…
CRUZ: … Not engaging in mudslinging…
COOPER: … Let’s go to our first member of the audience.
This is Thomas Dougherty (ph). He’s a student from Brookfield (ph) who says he’s still making up his mind. So you could pick up a vote here.
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Cruz.
My question for you is, how and why does your religion play a part in your political decision-making? Don’t you think it should be more of a moral belief and not something that can interfere with your decision-making when you’re making decisions for all religions in the United States?
CRUZ: Well, Thomas, thank you for that question.
Listen, with Me, as with many people in America, my faith is an integral part of who I am. I’m a Christian, and I’m not embarrassed to say that. I’m not going to hide that and treat it like it’s something you can’t admit publicly and acknowledge. It’s an important part of who you are.
But I also think those in politics have an obligation not to wear their faith on their sleeve. There have been far too many politicians that run around behaving like they’re holier than thou.
And I’ll tell you, my attitude as a voter when some politician stands up and says, I’m running because God told me to vote — to run, my reaction as a voter is, great, when God tells me to vote for you, we’ll be on the same page.
CRUZ: And so, listen, I’m not asking you to vote for me because of my personal faith with Jesus Christ. I’m asking you to vote for me because I’ve spent a lifetime fighting to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, fighting to defend the American free enterprise system, and we need a leader who will stand up every day and protect the rights of everyone, whether they’re Christians or Jews or Muslims or anyone else. The bill of rights protects all Americans. It protects atheists. That’s the beauty of the bill of rights, is that we have the freedom to seek out god, to worship and to live according to our faith and our conscience, and I think the Constitution and Bill of Rights is a unifying principle that can bring us together across faiths, across races, across ethnicity. And we need to come together behind the unifying principles that built America.
COOPER: Thank you for your question.
I want you to meet — this is Tim Matson (ph). His son, Jordan, traveled to Jordan in 2014, fought alongside Kurdish forces that were taking on ISIS. Tim says he is undecided.
QUESTION: Senator, when Jordan left for Syria, I was furious with him. I couldn’t understand how he could do this. But then I followed his steps on the internet, and I saw the mass murders and beheadings, sometimes of young children, and I understood.
Now I know we can’t be police of the world, but there’s lines that have been crossed that no civilized nation should ignore. And we have a nation that’s often said, never again, but there again, here we are.
So as commander in chief, will you send an overwhelming force with unrestricted use of power to obliterate ISIS and send a message to those who want to do evil upon the innocents of their fate (ph) if they do this?
CRUZ: Well, Tim, thank you for that question. And thank you for your son, Jordan, serving, and thank you for his sacrifice.
You know, the question of when to commit U.S. armed forces to combat is the most serious decision any president can make. And I believe the decision to use military force should be keyed to the vital national security interest of this country. Far too often we’ve seen in the last seven years where President Obama has not focused on our national security interests.
So, for example, we saw in Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, the dictator there, was a bad man. He had a horrible human rights record. He had been a state sponsor of terrorists. But Gadhafi in his latter years had actually shaped up his conduct pretty dramatically in response to U.S. strength and had become an active participant working with America stopping radical Islamic terrorists — tracking them down, apprehending them, handing them over to us. And what President Obama and Hillary Clinton did is they ended up joining with and leading many world forces in toppling Gadhafi, ultimately killing Gadhafi. And the consequence in Libya is that country was handed over to radical Islamic terrorists. It’s become a war zone of battling war lords. And…
COOPER: The question is about U.S. troops, though, U.S. forces on the ground to defeat ISIS.
CRUZ: I understand. And I’m answering the question, Anderson. Thank you.
That was an enormous mistake. And the reason they made the mistake is they weren’t focused on U.S. national security interests. They were in the interests of promoting democracy, and toppling a government that ends up handing it over to radical Islamic terrorists is a much worse outcome.
We saw a similar thing in Egypt, where Obama and Hillary both cheered the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, the head of Egypt. Egypt was handed over to the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization. That was profoundly harmful for U.S. national security interests. Thankfully president el-Sisi is now in charge of Egypt.
Now with regard to Syria, Assad is a monster. I agree with you. He’s a horrible man. He has murdered hundreds of thousands of his own citizens. He has murdered women. He has murdered children. He has used chemical weapons against them.
But the problem is, if we simply topple Assad, the most likely outcome is that ISIS takes over Syria. And handing Syria over to ISIS, to radical Islamic terrorists who are waging war with us is a mistake.
So your question of what we should do, our focus, I believe, in Syria should not be on toppling Assad. Our focus should be on utterly and completely destroying ISIS, because ISIS is our enemy and ISIS has declared war on America and they pose a direct threat to our national security interests.
COOPER: In order to topple ISIS, would you be — I mean, his question is sending an overwhelming ground force. Would you be willing to send U.S. troops on the ground? Not just Special Forces as is currently being done.
CRUZ: Look, I will do whatever is necessary militarily to defeat ISIS. Now, defeating ISIS is going to have a lot of components. One of the most important components is overwhelming air power.
COOPER: You’ve talked about carpet bombing and just recently you said “carpet bomb them into oblivion.” Lieutenant General Charles Brown Jr., who is the commander of U.S. Air Forces, Central Command, said carpet bombing is not effective for the operation that we’re actually executing because we’re using precision-guided munitions on a regular basis and, in fact, carpet bombing civilian areas is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
CRUZ: Nobody has talked about targeting civilian areas. What I have suggested we should do is use overwhelming air power. And let me — let’s talk some specifics and some facts.
COOPER: What does carpet bombing mean?
CRUZ: I’m trying to answer your question, Anderson.
COOPER: OK. Just for a fact, ISIS is in many civilian areas.
CRUZ: Let’s talk specific facts. The first Persian Gulf War, a little over 25 years ago, we were launching roughly 1,100 air attacks a day. We were using overwhelming airpower. It’s one of the great strengths of the tremendous American military is our air superiority is second to none.
Right now, today, Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day.
COOPER: Right, but…
CRUZ: Compare the — but hold on, let me make my point, please, sir. If you compare those two numbers, 1,100 air attacks a day, we did that for 37 days, and then our troops went in and in a day-and-a-half mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army.
Eleven hundred air attacks a day does crushing debilitating damage. Fifteen to 30 a day is photo-op foreign policy.
COOPER: But I’ve talked to commanders who actually did the air campaign who said, look, it’s easy when you’re trying to take out — not easy, but it’s one thing when you are trying take out a government’s military, you can bomb their military-industrial complex, you can bomb factories, you can bomb their centers of command and control, you can bomb barracks.
ISIS is a completely different kind of enemy.
CRUZ: But you can use all of those tools. So you can take out their command and control headquarters. You can take out their communication. You can take out their means of transportation, ingress and egress.
You can take out their oil fields. You can take out their oil refining capacity. You can take out their infrastructure. You can target their troops and their troop movements.
And we’re not doing that right now. Overwhelming airpower is the first step, now it’s not the only step, but overwhelming airpower is the first step. The next step is arming the Kurds. The Kurds, the Peshmerga, fighting forces of the Kurds are very, very effective fighters.
They’re longtime allies of America. They’re fighting ISIS right now. ISIS is using U.S. military equipment that they seized in Iraq. The Kurds are using outmoded equipment and the Obama administration refuses to arm them because of political reasons. That doesn’t make sense.
We ought to be arming the Kurds and let them kill ISIS. And then beyond that the question of Special Forces and ground troops. We should do whatever is necessary to win, but I’ll tell you what I won’t do is I will not send our troops into combat the way Barack Obama is doing with rules of engagement so strict that they cannot fight, they cannot win, and they cannot defeat the enemy.
If we’re going to use our troops, we’re going to defeat the enemy.
COOPER: I want to go to our next questioner. This is Shannon O’Connell. She works in health care. She’s an independent voter. She says she is still undecided.
CRUZ: Hi, Shannon.
QUESTION: Thank you. My question is more personal in nature. What would you regard as your greatest personal failure and what did you learn from it?
CRUZ: You know, those are always — whether in political campaign or a job interview, those are always tricky questions.
CRUZ: You know, any time you go for a job interview, you sit down and you’re like, OK, what’s your greatest weakness? And, like, the classic answer people give at a job interview, you know, my greatest weakness is I just work too hard.
CRUZ: I’m just such a disciplined employee, I just put my work in front of everything else.
Look, there are pros and cons to it. What I will say is I’m a pretty driven guy. That has pros and cons. I have always been a very driven guy.
CRUZ: … I’m just such a disciplined employee, I just put my work in front of everything else.
Look, there are pros and cons to it. What I will say is I’m a pretty driven guy. That has pros and cons. I have always been a very driven guy. I believe passionately in free-market principles and the Constitution. My whole life — I mean, when I was a teenager, I studied and memorized a shortened mnemonic (ph) version of the Constitution and traveled around as part of a non-profit organization in Houston speaking about the Constitution, speaking about free-market principles.
And, you know, a lot of that, I think the reason that I’m so driven on this front has to do with my family background. My father was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba, and when my dad came to America, he had nothing, and it really is — it’s an amazing thing when you grow up in the house with someone who’s fled oppression, because I remember when I was a little kid, we’d be watching TV, and there was an urgency to politics. It wasn’t, oh, that’s interesting, a couple of candidates. It was, having principled men and women in office is how you protect yourself from tyranny.
Now, I’ll confess, growing up in a Cuban-American household, you’re raised where there are two families — there are two parties. The Republicans and the Communists.
CRUZ: And anyone who is Cuban-American will understand I’m not kidding really with that.
Now, I was really saddened to see Barack Obama go and pal around with the Castros and pose under a Che Guevera picture. I mean, it drove that point home.
But as a kid, that gives you an urgency. And so at times, listen, I’m hard charging. That means I’ve stepped on some toes. That means I’ve been focused very hard on fighting those fights, and maybe I should have pulled back in some circumstances. So it is a strength and a weakness.
But I will say this, I am someone who what you see is what you get. You know what I’m going to do in office. It’s what I’ve done every day. It’s what I believe. It’s what I’ve spent my life fighting for. And I think we’re at a time where we need a president who we know what he will do, and we know we can trust them to follow through on what they’re saying.
COOPER: Thank you for your question.
This is William Wake (ph). He’s got one of the toughest jobs I think there is. He’s a middle school social studies teacher. He says he’s leaning toward voting for you.
QUESTION: Senator Cruz…
CRUZ: Follow your instincts, William.
QUESTION: Yes, right.
QUESTION: My students will often ask me, you know, they’ll say, have you seen or heard what the candidates are saying? And oftentimes it’s not about substance. It’s about, you know, what name we’ve been calling each other.
So I guess my question is, is it a good example to set for our youth of America, and should we stay on substance instead of calls each other names?
Well, William, thank you for that question, and let me say thank you for the difference you make teaching kids and teaching in middle school. I mean, middle school is obviously just a really pivotal age.
CRUZ: And I worry about that question, what lesson to our kids take watching this?
You know, Heidi and I, our girls are 5 and 7. And they’re watching presidential candidates insulting each other, yelling, cursing, attacking family members. I mean, it’s gotten really ugly, and just when you don’t think it can get any uglier, it gets uglier. I think that has no place in politics, and my view — I have no ability to control what another candidate does.
But what I can control is my approach. I’ll tell you the promise that I made to the people who joined our campaign from the beginning, the supporters who were with us from the beginning. I said, listen, I can’t promise we’re going to win, I think we will, but I can promise you two things. One, we’re going to work every day with a joyful spirit, we’re going to work every day and put everything weave into this campaign., and number two, we’re going to do so with integrity. We’re not going to go into the gutter. We’re not going to attack people personally. We’re not going to malign their character. We’re going to focus on issues and substance.
Now in the course of the campaign, there have been a bunch of candidates engaging in personal insults. I’ve worked very, very hard to stay out of that and say, I’m not going into the gutter. If you attack me personally, I’m not going to respond in kind.
Now, if you want to talk about your tax plan, I’ll compare my tax plan to your tax plan. That should be the bread and butter of politics. And it is my hope that at the end of the day that that is the approach that prevails. I think it’s what the people of Wisconsin want. I think it’s what the people of America want.
COOPER: Over here we have Jason Vorpel (ph). He’s a dairy farmer from Random Lake, Wisconsin. He says he’s voting for you, Senator Cruz — Jason.
CRUZ: Thank you, Jason.
QUESTION: I am a dairy farmer here in Wisconsin, and dairy farming in my family goes back to the 1800s when my great-great grandparents starting farming with six cows. Today we have 2,800 cows.
QUESTION: And it’s a 24-hour operation. We offer a competitive wage and offer full benefits to all our employees.
Most farms in the dairy industry cannot find American-born workers to milk the cows and take care of them. The only ones willing to do this hard work are Latino immigrants who, if we didn’t have them for eight hours, there would be a crisis across the country in our industry.
What is the short-term solution to keep our current labor force intact? And what is the long-term solution moving forward?
CRUZ: Right. Well, thank you for sharing your experience as a dairy farmer, and, you know, there are farmers across this country who are really hurting. And farmers are hurting from a lot of things.
They’re hurting from a federal government whose policies have been making it harder and harder for farmers to survive. They’re hurting from an EPA who is imposing massive burdens on farms.
For example, the Waters of the United States Rule where the EPA has tried to define a puddle or a drainage ditch on your farm to be navigable waters and thus subject to massive environmental regulations.
And I think we need a president, we need an administration that takes the burdens off farmers so that it is easier to do your job which is incredibly important.
Now, when it comes to labor, I understand the need to have labor and that it can be hard to have agricultural labor. You know, I’ll tell you, though, one of the consequences of our immigration system right now, when we’ve got 12 million people who are here illegally, that has an effect of driving down wages for Americans across this country.
There was a very interesting article, it was about, oh, a month, maybe six weeks ago in The Wall Street Journal, it was focusing on Arizona. You’ll recall several years ago Arizona put in place really tough laws on illegal immigration.
And they were criticized loudly for putting those laws in place. And it was interesting, this Wall Street Journal article, because it talked about what happened in the wake of that law, which is a great many of the illegal immigrants left.
They left the state and went elsewhere. And it actually quoted a farmer, and that’s the reason I’m bringing up this example, it quoted a farmer, a fellow in Arizona who was growing peppers.
And he complained, he said, listen, all people that we had picking peppers, they left. And he said, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know that we were going to be able to pick our peppers.
And what it described that he did is he actually went and invented a new tool to help pick the peppers. And then he went down to the local community college and he ended up hiring Americans coming out of the community college.
He had to pay them more. He paid them about $15 an hour. But he continues picking his peppers except he’s doing so in a situation where what has happened in Arizona, the public expenditures have plummeted.
Arizona is spending hundreds of millions of dollars less on prisons, on education, on hospitals, for those here illegally. That means that’s hundreds of millions of dollars available to take care of U.S. citizens.
And also unemployment has gone down and median wages for Americans have gone up in the construction industry, carpenters. We’re seeing wages going up.
And I think the view — our immigration laws should benefit American workers. That should be the focus of immigration laws.
CRUZ: And so what I intend to do as president is, number one, we’re going to secure the border. We’re going to end illegal immigration. We know how to do it. And what’s missing is the political will to get it done. The difference is I will get it done.
But beyond that, when it comes to legal immigration, listen, I think on immigration the principles are really simple. Legal, good. Illegal, bad. It’s amazing how many — how many folks in politics, how many folks in the media have trouble understanding that.
I’m reminded, you guys remember former Congressman Sonny Bono from “Sonny & Cher”? Years ago Sonny Bono was asked, what’s your view on illegal immigration? He said, well, it’s illegal, isn’t it?
We’re going to solve this problem by securing the border and ending illegal immigration. And once we do that, that’s going to drive up wages for Americans across this country.
And in the agriculture world, I think the first option should be trying to find American workers. Now that may mean wages come up. It may mean that we have to use more tools. We’ve seen in Arizona that has happened.
And beyond that, our legal immigration system, if there are needs in the labor force and American workers not available to do it, that’s where legal immigration should come in.
But it should be in a situation where you’re vetting the people rather than just having people come in that we don’t know who they are, and we don’t know their criminal history, we don’t know their background.
It should be through the legal system targeted in a way that protects American workers.
COOPER: We’re going to have more with Senator Cruz in just a moment. We’re going to take a short break.
Also ahead tonight in Milwaukee, John Kasich and Donald Trump. But more with Ted Cruz coming up next.
COOPER: And welcome back. We’re here at the Riverside Theater in downtown Milwaukee, taking voter questions for Senator Ted Cruz. John Kasich, Donald Trump coming up. But more voter questions now for Senator Cruz.
I want to start, though — more than six months ago, you pledged to support the Republican nominee. When things started getting rough with Donald Trump, you said you were going to stick with that pledge because you’d given your word. I saw in an interview with my colleague, Sunlen Serfaty – I think it was just yesterday. You’re said you’re not in a habit of supporting people who attack your wife and attack your family. Do you still stand by the pledge to support whoever the nominee, even if it’s Donald Trump?
CRUZ: Well, Anderson, as you mentioned, what I said is true. I’m not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my family. I think that is going beyond the line. I think our wives, I think our kids should be off limits. They don’t belong in the attacks.
CRUZ: And, listen, I’m not an easy person to tick off, but when you go after my wife, when you go after my daughters, that does it. And I think — I want this race to stay focused on policy and issues and solutions to the real problems facing America. That’s where I’m going to stay focused. But if other candidates don’t, I think that’s beyond the pale.
COOPER: So I just have to follow-up, if Donald Trump is the GOP nominee, would you support him?
CRUZ: Let me tell you my solution to that.
CRUZ: Donald is not going to be the GOP nominee. We’re going to beat him.
COOPER: I would be remiss if I didn’t follow-up. That’s my greatest failing. That was the question earlier for you.
COOPER: My greatest failing is sometimes I don’t follow up, so not to give into that, I mean, I got to ask, I will assume by you saying you would not support him, that the answer is you would not support him if he is the nominee?
CRUZ: I gave you my answer.
Listen, I think nominating Donald Trump would be an absolute train wreck. I think it would hand the general election to Hillary Clinton. Poll after poll after poll shows Donald Trump losing 10, 11, 12 points or more. I don’t want to see the White House given over to Hillary Clinton. I don’t want to see us lose the Senate and House, lose the Supreme Court for a generation, lose the Bill of Rights. I think nominating Donald Trump is a disaster, and so the answer to that is not to scream and yell and cry and attack him, the answer to that is to beat him at the ballot box. That’s what we’re working every day to do. It’s what we’re campaigning every day here in Wisconsin to do.
COOPER: This is Benjamin Miller. He’s a student at University of Wisconsin. He says he’s also voting for you next week.
QUESTION: Good evening, senator.
CRUZ: Benjamin, welcome.
QUESTION: Both Paris and now Brussels have suffered blindside attacks by Islamic terrorists. Although I fear a terrorist attack on the United States, I have a greater fear of the government taking away my constitutional freedoms and privacy in the name of security.
QUESTION: As president, how will you ensure that America is not blindly attacked, while also maintaining the privacy of the American people?
CRUZ: Well, Benjamin, thank you for that question, and it’s a very important question.
You know, there are some in politics who say it’s an either/or choice. We can either protect America or protect our civil liberties. I don’t accept that choice. I think it is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. I think it is possible — and the difference — something the Obama administration is not very good at — they’re not very good at distinguishing between bad guys and good guys. So over and over again, the Obama administration’s solution, for example, when it comes to surveillance, was to monitor the phone calls or the e-mails of millions of law-abiding citizens, but because of their political correctness, because they won’t focus on and identify radical Islamic terrorists, they don’t actually target the bad guys. It’s why it’s so important — and you know, it’s interesting, Benjamin, people in the media, sometimes they ask, why does it matter whether Obama will say the words “radical Islamic terrorism?” It matters because if you don’t identify the problem, you don’t devote — you don’t direct law enforcement and national security resources to stopping it.
I’ll give a specific example. My home state of Florida, Fort Hood, Nidal Hassan committed a horrific terrorist attack there. Now, the Obama administration knew before the attack that Nidal Hassan communicated with Anwar Al Awlaki, a known radical Islamic cleric. They knew that Nidal Hassan had asked about the permissibility of waging jihad and murdering his fellow soldiers. And yet for whatever reason, political correctness or what have you, they didn’t do anything. If we find out that a member of the Armed Services is talking with a radical Islamic cleric and asking about waging jihad against his fellow soldiers, within minutes, MPs should show up at his door and put him in handcuffs.
CRUZ: But they didn’t do that, and Nidal Hassan murdered 14 innocent souls, including an unborn child, yelling “allahu akbar.” And then the Obama administration in truly a stunning display of political correctness defined that terrorist attack as workplace violence. We need to direct our resources at going after the Nidal Hassans, going after the radical Islamic terrorists, and we can do that at the same time as not infringing the privacy of law-abiding Americans, distinguishing between the bad guys and the good guys. That’s what this administration hadn’t been doing.
COOPER: Thank you for your question.
This is Victoria Ostry (ph), a small business owner from Brookefield (ph). She says she is also voting for you next week. Victoria?
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Cruz.
CRUZ: Hi, Victoria.
QUESTION: Women are more than 50 percent of the voting electorate. What have you done, and what are you going to do to convince and persuade women to vote for you?
CRUZ: Well, Victoria, thank you for that question, and you’re absolutely right.
You know, I will say one of the things I’ve really been blessed in my life is that I have a grown up surrounded by strong women. My mom is someone who I admire immensely. My mom is Irish-Italian. She grew up Wilmington, Delaware. She grew up in a working-class family.
Her mom was the second youngest of 17 kids. And, my mom became the first person in her family ever to go to college. And, that was not easy for her because my grandfather, her dad, he was not an easy man. He was a drunk, and he didn’t think women should be educated.
And, so my mom stood up to her father. She stood up to him, confronted him and she ended up going Rice. She majored in math in 1956., and then she got hired at Shell as a computer programmer.
Now, you want to talk about two industries, computer science and oil and gas, neither one of which were welcoming to women, and my mom was at the intersection of them both.
And, I remember my mom used to tell me a lot when I was a kid, she said, she very deliberately didn’t learn how to type. She said, look, it was the 1950s. I understood the world I was living.
She didn’t want to be walking down the hall and have some man stop her and say, Sweetheart, would you type this for me?
She wanted to be able to respond with a clean conscience and smile and say, I would love to help you out, but I don’t know how to type.
I guess you’re going to have to use me as a computer programmer instead.
And, whether it’s my mom, who as a pioneer computer programmer — she’s 81 now, she’s been a best friend to me my whole life. She’s an amazing grandmother to our two little girls. Whether it’s my wife, Heidi, who is the daughter of Christian Missionaries, she lived in Africa as a kid several times. She’s someone who has been an incredible businesswoman. She’s strong.
Listen, when you’re married to a strong woman professional, you see the nonsense that women deal with in the business environment. You see the garbage they put up with. And, it makes you mad. I’ve been blessed my whole life to be surrounded by strong women.
I think women right now are particularly concerned about the direction of this country, are particularly concerned our kids are going to have, what kind of country we’re giving to the next generation.
I think women quite rightly are very concerned about safety and security, and a president that’s protecting us from terrorists.
And, I believe what protects women — you know, the Democrats love to put everyone in a little pigeon hole, and so this is a woman’s issue, this is a Hispanic issue, this is an African-American issue. Listen, I believe every issue is a woman’s issue, and the focus of my campaign is on three things. It’s on jobs, freedom, and security.
Bringing back the opportunity, raising wages, bringing jobs back to America, I think that is resonating powerfully with women, and fighting to protect the Bill of Rights, and equal opportunity for women and men, and everyone. And, I’ll tell you there’s no one I fight harder for than our two little girls, Caroline and Catherine who are the loves of my life, and who can do anything. And, I want to make sure they have a world they can live in where they have the opportunity to do anything.
COOPER: Senator, thank you very much.
COOPER: I’m going to try and get time for two more questions. I want you to meet Marv Simcakoski, he’s from Stevens Point, he says at this point he’s undecided. Marv, welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you both. My son, Jason, was a former Marine who was killed by over-prescription of medication while he was an in-patient at the V.A. facility in Tomo, Wisconsin. Every day you see stories and news about people all over Wisconsin, people from rural areas, big cities, and small towns who are addicted to opioids and heroin. There is bipartisan legislation in front of congress right now named after my son which would, in part, require stronger opiate prescribing guidelines for V.A. providers. Will you support this bipartisan legislation, and do you support requiring stronger opiate prescribing guidelines, not only for the V.A., but for doctors across this country?
CRUZ: Well, Marv, thank you for sharing your story, and thank you for your son’s service and his sacrifice. I’m sorry that you lost son, Jason.
CRUZ: And this is a tragedy we’re seeing across the country. We’re seeing veterans coming back struggling with PTSD. Struggling to get their health care needs treated, treated properly. We’re seeing a V.A. that is dysfunctional. A V.A. that is lying.
One of the things we need is we need real accountability in the V.A. I give you my word, if I am president, there will be accountability in the V.A. Those that have lied, those that have wrongfully denied care, they will be terminated. And if they broke the law, they will be prosecuted.
We also need reform in the V.A. so that veterans have the power to choose their own doctors. Whether they want to choose the V.A. or a private doctor, there’s no reason your son, Jason, couldn’t have gone to the doctor down the street.
CRUZ: Now, I agree with you, we need greater scrutiny, greater involvement preventing opioid abuse. You look at the prevalence of heroin — and I would note this is a tragedy. Roughly 50,000 people a year die of drug overdoses. More people in America die of drug overdoses than die in car crashes.
And Marv, I’m sorry to say, you and I are both members of a horrible club because I lost my sister, Miriam, to a drug overdose. And so I’ve seen first hand — and it actually started — it started when she was in a car accident, and she got prescribed painkillers. And she kept on taking the painkillers, and then she started taking strong, and she started taking stronger. And Miriam led a difficult and troubled life. She made a lot of very poor decisions. And then just a few years ago, she took too many pills one night, and her son came in and found her dead.
This is an epidemic that is destroying families across America. I’ am sorry for your family’s loss. I’m sorry. My nephew, Joey, her son, someone I’m really proud of. He’s endured his mom’s difficult journey, and he’s working a good job. He’s a responsible — he’s a terrific young man.
But we need a federal government that focuses on stopping this drug abuse, whether it is prescription drug abuse or whether it is illegal narcotics like heroin. And one of the most important ways to stop that — you know, unfortunately my sister, Miriam, ended up going down that path, going down the path of crack cocaine and drugs that destroyed her life.
One of the ways to prevent that is we need to secure the border. We need to get serious about stopping the incredible flow from Mexican drug cartels that are poisoning our kids. And you have my commitment as president — I’m not going to talk about it. I’m not going to make empty promises. But we are going to devote the full resources of the federal government to finally, finally, finally secures the border, stopping illegal immigration, but stopping the deluge of drugs that is coming into this country and destroying the lives of people all across this country.
COOPER: This is Tim Omer. He says he is leaning in your favor. Tim, welcome.
CRUZ: Hey, Tim.
TIM OMER, WISCONSIN VOTER: Welcome to Wisconsin, Senator.
CRUZ: Thank you.
OMER: As a growing company, our biggest challenge is finding talented and qualified people to fill all the positions that we have open in our company. As president of the United States, what could you do to help us find those talented people, find those quality people, build up the pool of people so that we can fill those positions and continue to grow our business?
CRUZ: Tim, tell me what kind of company do you have?
OMER: We’re Wisconsin cheese.
CRUZ: Wisconsin cheese, fabulous!
CRUZ: I will confess something. And as my wife, Heidi, is my witness, my favorite food in all the world is cheese.
CRUZ: And I am not says that to pander in Wisconsin. But if you wouldn’t point it out here, where would you point it out?
CRUZ: Listen, it is a huge problem we see of a need for a trained workforce and a need for a workforce that’s prepared and wants to work. You know, as I meet with small business owners all across the country, I hear those concerns over and over and over again that it’s hard to get people who are qualified and who want to work and are prepared to work, and that’s a real challenge. And, you know, the key to jobs and job creation is small businesses, is doing what you do. How many employees do you guys have?
OMER: About 300.
CRUZ: About 300. I mean, that’s where job creation comes from. It comes from small businesses. Two-thirds of all new jobs come from small businesses.
Now, in terms of getting new and able workers, we need to do several things. Number one, we need to reform education. You know, the step to having well-trained workers is having a strong education program.
And if you look at education right now, number one, I think the federal government needs to get the heck out of it.
CRUZ: It’s one of the reasons I promised on the very first day in office that I’m going to direct the Department of Education that Common Core ends that day.
CRUZ: And I think what we ought to be doing is abolishing the federal Department of Education and block-granting that money to send it back to Wisconsin. I think the people of Wisconsin know much better what to do with that money.
And part of that money, I think, should be directed at school choice programs, and allowing people who are trapped in failing schools to have the option of going to private schools, going to parochial schools, injecting competition in failing schools to empower parents and empower students.
I think school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st Century.
CRUZ: And part of that money as well in Wisconsin ought to be directed to vocational training, ought to be directed to different nontraditional ways where people can earn skills, whether it’s distance learning, whether it is using the Internet, using options where your only option isn’t spending $50,000 a year at a four-year college but expanding the options for people to get education.
I think that is a critical piece to improving the environment. And another critical piece is changing our welfare program. You know, our welfare program right now traps people in dependency.
Now, my view on welfare is that the social safety net, it should be a trampoline and not a hammock. That the whole purpose of the social safety net should be to get you back on your feet.
Everyone falls on hard times, but you’re not helping someone trapping them in dependence. And I’ll tell you, I visited with a fellow who owns a cookie factory. Tell you, between cookies and cheese, you really can have a great party right there.
CRUZ: But he owns a cookie factory. And he talked to me about where in the 1990s when Congress passed welfare reform, when Congress put in place a strong work requirement for welfare, and you recall the liberals in the media were saying, you’re going to throw people out on the street, people are going to be starving, it’s going to be terrible.
It’s one of the most successful public policy reforms we’ve ever seen. Millions of people left welfare and got jobs. This fellow who owns the cookie factory described to me how suddenly they had people lining up to work.
Because they weren’t getting paid in perpetuity to stay at home and watch “Gilligan’s Island.” They had to go get a job. And you know what, if you help someone get a job, ultimately that is giving them the dignity of work. I believe every American wants to have that dignity to provide for their families.
COOPER: We’ve got to wrap it up.
I want to thank Senator Cruz very much for being with us. Thank you, Senator.
When come back, Donald Trump, as our townhall continues here in downtown Milwaukee.
Senator, thank you.